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Leading Off (5/15/15)

City Likely to Dispose of Plastic-Bag Fee. Several companies have sued Dallas over the ordinance that requires retailers to charge customers a 5-cent fee for the use of plastic bags, which went into effect at the beginning of this year. So now five city council members have signed a memo calling for the repeal of the measure, while five others have expressed support for an all-out ban of plastic bags instead. A ban is expected to have a better chance of being upheld by a court than does the fee.

Mesquite Man Charged With Lying to Feds About ISIS Allegiance. Bilal Abood, 37, allegedly traveled to Syria to support the Islamic State.

The Amazing Race Finishes in Dallas. The season finale of the CBS reality TV competition, in which teams of two race around the world, airs tonight at 7 p.m. It’s the second time the million-dollar winner has been crowned in North Texas. (Season 5, back in 2004, ended in Trammell Crow Park.) Based on the preview at the end of last week’s episode, the teams fly from Peru to Dallas-Fort Worth, head to JerryWorld for some sort of football skills competition, travel to Johnson County to play cowboy, and rappel down Reunion Tower before hitting the final mat on the Continental Avenue Bridge. All this fun was filmed on a Saturday, December 6. As a fan of the show, I can tell you that the woman featured in the sneak-peek clip above is just about the most insufferable human you could imagine being stuck with on an international globe-trotting adventure, and her poor partner is maybe the most patient man on the planet. They are one of several teams who were forced to contend with this season’s gimmick. They were matched on a “blind date” and never met until embarking on the race. Because of the way the footage of their difficulties has been edited all race long, I’m expecting them to win it all. The Hyatt Regency (attached to Reunion Tower) is hosting a watch-party.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: You People Call That Mob Justice?

Lords and ladies, wildlings and free folk, knights and squires, bannermen and serving wenches alike, it has become necessary that I break from responding to your incessant onslaught of interrogatories to address a matter of the utmost cultural significance.

It cannot be allowed to pass without my own assiduous commentary, for it exemplifies the fraying stitch-work that binds disparate elements of this, the greatest city God and I have ever given the history of the world. I am speaking, of course, of the remarkable videographic evidence presented to the audience of this very D Magazine web log not two full days ago.

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NY Times: Jaap Mentioned in Search for New Conductor at New York Philharmonic

Late last year in the Big Apple, guest conductor Jaap van Zweden led the New York Philharmonic in some bang-up performances that were met with “rowdy enthusiasm.” But, was he so good that the New Yorkers decided they want him full-time? According to a report today in The New York Times, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra music director is among those who’ve been mentioned in a search to succeed Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert when Gilbert steps down in 2017. Says Denise McGovern, the DSO’s communications director: “There’s nothing to say right now about what they’re doing. There have been reports speculating on a lot of different things. I don’t have any information about that. He’s here, and his contract with us is through” the 2018-2019 season.

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Dallas Theater Center’s Steven Walters Talks Football, the Aqua Buddha, and Air Sex

There was a technical mishap in the midst of yesterday’s recording of D Magazine‘s EarBurner podcast. I think we’re all far too mature to resort to placing blame in this matter, but suffice it to say that you may notice a hiccup during the proceedings if you’re not just half-listening to the show while jogging or changing your oil. A prestigious No-Prize to the first listener to correctly identify the spot.

Our guest was actor/playwright/perpetually disappointed sports fan Steven Walters, a member of Dallas Theater Center’s resident company who is appearing in the production of Colossal that runs through May 3. Our critic, Lindsey Wilson, loved it. I have no idea what any other local writers thought of the show, nor what scenes said writers may have written about that aren’t actually in the play, nor does it matter. You should go.

Listen below.

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Garth Brooks, Just Being Himself, Stars at ACM Fundraising Gala

The Academy of Country Music’s first Lifting Lives Gala, held Friday night at the Omni Dallas Hotel, was all about Garth Brooks, the monster-selling country singer/songwriter who once “retired” from the business to be a stay-at-home dad. The Oklahoma native returned to recording and touring worldwide in 2014, many years after scoring big hits with well-crafted, hard-country tunes like “Friends in Low Places,” “Beaches of Cheyenne,” and “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old).” In recognition of his return he’s a nominee for Entertainer of the Year at Sunday’s 50th anniversary ACM Awards at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.

The Omni bash, which benefited Brooks’ Teammates for Kids Foundation and so-called Child Life Zones at two local hospitals, at times seemed more like a tribute to Brooks, who’s rejoined the music game at a time when the generic “bro-country” sound dominates mainstream country radio. In contrast to those mindless, pop/electronic paeans to beer, tailgates, and girls in cut-off jeans, Brooks’ songs sound downright epic, dealing with time-honored country themes like rodeo and don’t-give-a-s*** mavericks with the cojones to confront an ex at a pretentious black-tie soiree.

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The Dallas Zoo’s Harrison Edell Talks Giraffe Birth and Kilts on D Magazine Podcast

We were all a little disappointed that Harrison Edell, the senior director of living collections at the Dallas Zoo, didn’t show up at the Old Monk yesterday with a lemur on his back, or a falcon on his arm, or a tarantula atop his head, or toting some manor of fauna. Instead he was merely a mightily entertaining interview subject on the latest EarBurner podcast.

A couple of corrections/clarifications for this week’s show, which also features impressions of Dallas City Council members Vonciel Hill Jones, Sheffie Kadane, and Tennell Atkins:

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Reaction to Art Ball Video is Over-the-Top and Ridiculous

Can you say s-t-r-e-t-c-h? Yesterday, our colleague Peter posted Saturday night’s Art Ball video, a knock-off spoof of the song “Uptown Funk” starring the likes of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, DMA director Maxwell Anderson, Deedie Rose, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, and other art-crowd bigwigs. Peter also recalled a previous (admittedly tone-deaf) ball video spoofing “Downton Abbey.” Then he proceeded to rip Rawlings, throw a bouquet to mayoral contender Marcus Ronquillo, and somehow relate it all to the Trinity River tollroad debate. That opened the floodgates for commenters (here and elsewhere), who variously accused the video cast of elitism, racism, ripping off taxpayers, and making a “mockery” of … something or other.

Give me a break. Please. This blowback is so over-the-top and ridiculous, it’s embarrassing. First off, the “Funk” takeoff was a sponsor video, intended to thank the sponsors of Saturday’s fundraiser in a light-hearted and creative manner. (The sponsors are those who help pay for the event.) Second, the video was actually entertaining, imagined and edited with a deft touch. Third, the people in the video were making fun of themselves as much as anything (Rawlings in hair curlers? The usually buttoned-down Anderson looking like Nathan Lane in “The Birdcage”?) Last, the racism charge is offensive. Leaving aside that the video cast was not all-white, the fact is that it’s people with money—regardless of the color of their skin—who bankroll institutions like the DMA, which has been able to offer free admission and free membership to all comers precisely because of events like Saturday night’s. Welcome to the real world, people.

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In Dallas, Comedian Dana Carvey Recalls Barbara Bush Calling H. Ross Perot and Bill Clinton Clowns

Actor and stand-up comedian Dana Carvey took a few shots at Dallas and Dallasites while headlining a charity event at the Meyerson Symphony Center Thursday. Chief among the targets was businessman/former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot, whom Carvey often lampooned when he was a regular on TV’s Saturday Night Live.

Doing a dead-on impression of the dimunitive billionaire, Carvey said Perot showed real promise as a candidate with his, “We’re gonna study it … we’ll get some charts” schtick, before going off the deep end with nonsensical statements like this: “You can’t put a porcupine in a bar and light it on fire and expect it to make licorice!”

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Shopping for Dallas Investors for a Texas-Set Western

With its fast-growing population of wealthy people, Dallas has been a magnet for filmmakers looking for investment cash for awhile. Movies financed by North Texans include the 2008 Ben Stein documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” Rob Allyn’s “Java Heat” starring Mickey Rourke, and several from Gary Cogill’s (now-shuttered) Lascaux Films, a company that was basically bankrolled by local doctors.

The latest moviemaker to come knocking seeking Dallas dough is Chris Ekstein, an award-winning cinematographer from Venice, Calif., who’s shopping a Western project set in Texas called “The Last Duane.” Inspired by the writings of author Zane (“Riders of the Purple Sage”) Grey, the flick’s a straight-up oater about a gunfighter and outlaw who eventually sees the light and “gives himself over to service in the Texas Rangers.”

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Denton Teacher Motivates Students With the ‘STAAR Test Funk’

Kelli Hauser, a sixth-grade reading teacher at McMath Middle School in Denton, produced this shot-for-shot video parody of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” ostensibly to motivate students to get excited about the STAAR standardized testing this week. Hauser has previously produced parodies of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” called “STAAR Force” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” called “TAKS Face,” so I suspect she may be doing it to live out a bit of her own American Idol-esque dreams too. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — she’s far from the only teacher to do so.

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How You Can Save Western Civilization by Reading True Grit

In April, we’re asking everyone to read Charles Portis’ True Grit as part of D Academy’s literacy nonprofit Big D Reads. D Academy fellows raised enough money to purchase 17,000 copies of the book and will be handing them out at more than 60 events during the month of April.

The fellows have spent the last few months talking about “grit.” One alumnus of the group, David Hopkins, recently shared his own thoughts on the word’s meaning:

I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, lead by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller.

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